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Demaryius Thomas: Career Retrospective

Demaryius Thomas announced his retirement from football after 10 seasons this Monday in a video statement released by the Denver Broncos.

The Broncos’ first-round pick in 2010, Thomas has the second-most receiving yards (9,055) and touchdown catches (60) in franchise history and was a key member of Denver’s 2016 Super Bowl roster. Let’s take a look back at his legendary career.

2010 NFL Draft

NEW YORK - APRIL 22:  Demaryius Thomas from the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as they hold up a Denver Broncos jersey after Thomas was drafted by the Broncos number 22 overall during the the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 22, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Demaryius Thomas;Roger Goodell Photo: Jeff Zelevansky, Getty Images / 2010 Getty Images
Jeff Zelevansky, Getty Images

The Broncos selected Thomas No. 22 overall in the 2010 NFL Draft as the first receiver off the board. Denver took a risk by passing on the more experienced Dez Bryant — Thomas was not a major part of the offense at Georgia Tech and never recorded more than 50 receptions in a season. It’s safe to say that risk paid off.

Early Career: 2010-2011

Demaryius Thomas

Demaryius Thomas’ inexperience limited him early on and kept him from a starting role in his first two seasons. He had only 22 catches for 283 yards as a rookie. He got more playing time in 2011 but struggled with consistency: he was targeted 70 times but only caught 32 passes. The Broncos offense as a whole was stagnant with Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow behind center, but that would soon change.

The Peyton Manning Years: 2012-2016

Denver Broncos news: Peyton Manning works out with Demaryius Thomas

When the Broncos signed Peyton Manning before the 2012 season, they formed one of the most productive quarterback-receiver duos in the league. Thomas put up 1,434 receiving yards in their first year together and made his first of three consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl.

In 2013, their chemistry helped produce one of the most prolific offensive season in NFL history. The Broncos as a whole totaled 7,317 yards, the second-most ever. Manning broke the records for passing yards and touchdown passes in a single season, and Thomas led the team with 1,430 yards and 14 touchdowns. It all culminated in a trip to Super Bowl XLVIII. The Broncos came up short against Seattle’s ‘Legion of Boom’ defense, but Thomas set a Super Bowl record with 13 receptions.

Thomas cemented his status as one of the league’s top playmakers with a career-high 1,619 yards in 2014, a franchise record. Denver, though, did not return to the Super Bowl until the 2015 season. Though Thomas was largely a nonfactor in those playoffs, he earned his first and only championship ring in a 24-10 defeat of the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50.

End of Career: 2016-2020

Texans WR Demaryius Thomas wants to keep playing
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Thomas was never quite the same after Manning’s retirement. 2016 was his fifth consecutive and final 1,000-yard season, He was traded to the Houston Texans for a fourth-round pick at the 2018 trade deadline, ending his days as a No. 1 receiver. The Texans released him after that season. He then signed with the Patriots, who traded him to the Jets before the season even began for a sixth-round pick. He found some success in New York, starting 10 games, but was third on the depth chart. The Jets released him and he sat out 2020 as an unsigned free agent.

Top 100 NFL Players of 2021: 90-81

Throughout the offseason, Baseline Times will be ranking the top 100 NFL players for the 2021 season.

Every Thursday night, 10 players will be released with a short discussion about what separates them from the rest of the pack. Rankings are based on both past performance and projections for next year.

This week’s list is filled with veterans who took a big step forward last year, as well as some unsung young heroes.

Previous Entries: 100-91

90. Derwin James, S, Chargers

So far, James has lived up to his pre-draft evaluation: if he can stay healthy, he is a game-changing safety. He fell to the Chargers at No. 17 in the 2018 draft because of a leg injury and was a first-team All-Pro that season. However, his leg sidelined him for all of 2020 and most of 2019. He is reportedly fully healthy, and a successful start to the season could quickly change the narrative surrounding him.

89. J.J. Watt, DE, Cardinals

No one has dropped down this list as quickly and as suddenly as Watt. Once the consensus best player of his generation, it feels like much longer than three years since he recorded 16 sacks and was named a first-team All-Pro. Last year, he had five sacks and 17 quarterback hits, both career-lows for a full season.

Now, Watt will suit up for a team besides Houston for the first time. Expectations are low, and Watt has punched his ticket to Canton regardless of how he performs. But he will need to regain at least some of his old form if he wants to be remembered as one of the greatest defensive players of all time.

88. Stephon Tuitt, DT, Steelers

Tuitt bounced back from a 2019 injury and finally made the jump from “good” to “elite” in his seventh NFL season. One of ten players to post double-digit sacks, Tuitt made offensive lines pay for focusing too much attention on T.J. Watt.

87. Josh Jacobs, RB, Raiders

Making fun of the Raiders’ draft picks has become something of a national pastime, but Jacobs is no joke. He racked up 12 touchdowns and 1,303 yards from scrimmage in his sophomore campaign and made his first Pro Bowl. He lacks the explosiveness to compensate for a bad offensive line — his longest rush last year was 28 yards — but has emerged as a true every-down back in a time where that role is supposed to be dying out.

86. Leonard Williams, DT, Giants

Leonard Williams played the best football of his six-year career in 2020. (Adam Hunger/Associated Press)

Williams’ shaggy mane of hair and massive 6-foot-5 frame have become one of opposing linemen’s least favorite sights. He has been a true workhorse since entering the league in 2015, missing only one game in six years. But last year, he finally lived up to his status as the No. 6 overall pick.

He posted career-highs in sacks (11.5) and tackles for loss (14) while leading a rejuvenated Giants defensive line. His 62 quarterback pressures were more than double anyone else on the team. New York rewarded him in March with a $63 million dollar contract.

85. DeMarcus Lawrence, DE, Cowboys

Lawrence has not justified the five-year, $105 million contract he signed in 2019. However, he has been much better than his 11.5 sacks in the past two years suggest. Lawrence is disruptive and physical, two traits that were lacking in Dallas’ 28th-ranked defense last year. He could experience a resurgence if bruiser Micah Parsons draws enough attention from opposing offenses.

84. Allen Robinson, WR, Bears

While he has never matched the heights of his 2015 breakout season, Robinson’s quiet consistency has anchored the Bears’ offense with 200 receptions in the past two years. His 1,250 yards last year ranked ninth in the league, ahead of Pro Bowlers Keenan Allen and A.J. Brown.

Few players are better than Robinson at making contested catches, whose size and sure hands give him an edge over most cornerbacks. If Justin Fields meets expectations, Robinson could be in for a career year in 2021.

83. James Bradberry, CB, Giants

Bradberry hasn’t become a star quite yet, but New Yorkers know how intimidating he can be in pure man coverage. Bradberry is not an aggressive corner, but possesses elite instincts and keep up with the league’s best route runners. Don’t let that style fool you — he was instrumental in the Giants’ upset of the Seahawks last year, holding the 6-foot-4 D.K. Metcalf to five receptions.

The five-year veteran went to his first Pro Bowl last year. He also posted a 79.8 grade on Pro Football Focus — seventh-best among cornerbacks and better than stars like Stephon Gilmore and Tre’Davious White.

82. Joel Bitonio, G, Browns

Joel Bitonio is one of the most reliable players in the NFL. He has not missed a snap since 2016. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The Browns’ offensive line was the biggest factor in their success last year. They have three lineman on this list, more than some entire teams. Their blockers are that good.

Bitonio is a head coach’s dream. He has not missed a snap at left guard in the past four years and has been a second-team All-Pro for three years straight. Guards rarely get credit for their team’s success, but Nick Chubb and Baker Mayfield may not have become stars without Bitonio’s steady prescence.

81. Joe Burrow, QB, Bengals

Burrow’s Week 10 ACL injury remains the most enduring and tragic image of the 2020 NFL season. Before his season was cut short, Burrow put up over 300 passing yards five times and was immune to most of the growing pains young quarterbacks experience. He is unquestionably the Bengals’ quarterback of the future.

However, Cincinnati questionably passed on left tackle Penei Sewell in the draft. Their offensive line is virtually unchanged from the group that at one point allowed Burrow to be sacked 16 times over three weeks. If he can not stay on his feet, it won’t matter how talented he is.

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